[Editor’s note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]
Dear Dr. Steve,
Pierre Poilievre was at an event in Duncan, B.C., last week. He rallied the crowd by shouting “Are you ready to axe the tax?” He was referring to the federal carbon tax. But B.C. has a provincial carbon tax program, which Poilievre, as prime minister, would be unable to affect.
Can you explain this oversight?
With all due respect, good sir, you fail to understand. When Poilievre stood up in Duncan and yelled “Are you ready to axe the tax?” he was not engaging in a bout of specious rabble-rousing intended to dupe an ill-informed public. Far from it. He was offering up a clearly understood shorthand for the fuller message:
“Are you ready to cancel the federal carbon tax which, although it does not apply to B.C., and removal of which would leave the B.C. program firmly in place, could still be argued to have an impact on B.C. residents by indirectly raising prices on items produced elsewhere?”
Be reasonable — Poilievre couldn't yell that sentence into a bullhorn. He'd pass out. And have no time left to plug cryptocurrency afterward.
Poilievre’s anti-carbon tax campaign has problems. Even if you live in Ontario or Manitoba, the Conservative leader's claims of big savings from cancelling the tax are nonsense, and that's even before you consider the environmental effects of the move.
However, this incident does raise an important point about our electorate. It is with regret that Dr. Steve must inform you, Dunked, that many voters are not masters of political science. Not even C students. Collectively, we are rather like a cabin full of tourists trying to fly a jumbo jet by committee.
Consider the rather alarming quote from a Nov. 16 New York Times story about potential support for a Kamala Harris presidency. One woman said she was for Harris but unable to support President Joe Biden.
Her reason, according to the Times? “She strongly supports abortion rights — and did not realize that Mr. Biden does, too. She said that because states’ abortion bans had gone into effect during his presidency, she assumed it was because of him.”
To believe that Biden is responsible for abortion bans instituted by Republican state governments requires a bending and folding of political reality worthy of a 10-storey origami swan. But there you have it. Despairing about this level of misunderstanding is considered elitist, however, so if you find yourself bemoaning an electorate incapable of locating its own posterior with both hands, say nothing. Or if such anecdotes make you want to drive into oncoming traffic, keep it to yourself. And please consider taking the bus.
Nobody expects the average voter to be a capable stand-in on the CBC National's At Issue panel. But it would nice if people understood that no level of government is to blame when Air Canada loses your poodle, or 7-11 is out of Pepsi Zero again.
Blame and credit are laid at the feet of government, merited or otherwise. It reflects a rather credulous belief in the powers that be, reminiscent of the days when scrofula was known as the King’s Evil, capable of being cured merely by the touch of the monarch’s hand.
It’s a lot of responsibility for a leader. Sure, being omnipotent sounds great, but man, the mail you get. Every fool with a flat tire or a bad case of gout is barking at you. Harry Truman's famous desk sign said “The buck stops here.” But what did Truman have to say to outraged consumers wondering why there was no FM radio in the 1951 Studebaker? History does not say.
Whoever is in power tends to carry the can for whatever lousy shit happens to be taking place at the moment. Everything’s bad, so vote for the other team, regardless. It was an attitude espoused by Trump supporters in 2016 and it’s the same political formula that just led to yet another jaw-dropping election result, this time in Argentina.
Javier Milei, a TV host and Trump wannabee who has aped Trump's electoral fraud claims, says climate change is a socialist hoax, and campaigned by waving a chainsaw around, won the presidency on Sunday. “We don’t have anything to lose,” the Washington Post quotes Argentine voter. Well, friendo, you are about to put that theory to the test.
Like many an opposition politician before him, Poilievre waxes fat on this empty time-for-a-change-to-whatever message. Affordable housing? Trudeau’s problem. Inflation? That damn Justin again. Scrofula? Trudeau's Evil. Squirrels raiding your bird feeder? You know.
But leaving Poilievre’s demagoguery aside, it would be nice if we could at least straighten out who does what for the purposes of political debate. And for that matter, religious debate too. Which deity is to blame for acts of God? Next time Dr. Steve is crushed by a falling meteor, he would like to know where to direct his complaints.
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